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Free Printable Signs For Garage or Yard Sales

April, 21, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on April 21, 2014

It's Spring! Flowers are blooming, birds are singing ... and the voice of the yard sale shopper is heard in the land.

Thinking of holding a garage sale or yard sale this year? We've got everything you need to cut your clutter and score some cash with our garage sale tips--but if you're looking for more help, try these free printables for yard sale success:

Printable Yard Sale Checklist and Signs

Printable Garage Sale Signs from

Free Printable Garage Sale Sign from Hoover Web Design

Topics: Free PrintablesGarage Sales
Categories: Homekeeping

Frugal Order: A Tightwad's Guide To Getting Organized

April, 11, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on April 11, 2014

Getting organized! For many, that phrase is synonymous with "Buy Me!"

Savvy retailers know that "Get Organized Fever" breaks out at predictable intervals, and tailor ad campaigns to capitalize on the desire to create an organized home. Too often, professional organizers hear the cry, "But I can't afford to get organized!"

No doubt about it, there are many marvelous products on the market to help achieve better home and personal organization.

But getting organized doesn't necessarily require spending money. Try these tips to get organized without becoming a spendthrift.

Don't confuse "getting organized" with "buying stuff"

Pick a yard sale, any yard sale. Chances are, some pretty pricey organizing products will be included in the seller's merchandise.

Rotating plastic turntables. Bathroom shelf units. Specialty organizers like can holders, tie racks and shelf extenders. All on sale for a tiny fraction of their retail price--and all mute witnesses to a would-be organizer who confuses "getting organized" with "buying stuff."

There's a difference between organization and the products you'll use to achieve that goal. Organization is a process, not a product. It involves time and thought, motivation and effort--and you can't buy these factors in any store. No tangible item, no matter how useful, can set you on the road to better organization all by itself.

The moral is: nobody ever got organized by buying stuff. Instead, they ended up holding a garage sale.

Organize first, measure next, buy last

People who are frugal and organized understand how the organization process works: they organize first, measure next, and buy--if they buy--last.

Take a common problem: magazine storage. Too often, our home manager will say to herself, "Oh, I have to do something about those stacks of magazines." She'll eyeball the stacks, grab the car keys, and head to the store.

At the store, she'll buy a set of 12 nifty plastic magazine organizers in a pretty color to match the family room drapes. Home she goes--only to find that the organizers are one-half inch too tall to fit in the family room bookcase, and that she'll need 8 more containers to hold the entire pile.

Wallet drained and energy depleted, she drops the whole project. The plastic magazine organizers are thrust in a dark closet where they join the household clutter awaiting the next yard sale.


Frugal organizers know the steps required to solve the magazine problem.

First, they assess and sort the magazines. They'll keep only 20% of the pile:. those periodicals which they read each month and to which they refer back often.

After recycling the rejected 80%, the frugal organizer will plan and measure available storage areas. Can the collection of Family Fun be shelved in the existing bookcase? Out comes the tape measure.

Only after having assessed and sorted, planned and measured, does a frugal organizer shop for organizational products--and she does it with a list.

Our frugal friend now knows that she needs four magazine storage boxes, each at least 3 inches wide and no more than 12 inches tall. Next yard sale, she'll buy just what she needs--and no more--to organize the magazines. Problem solved, frugally.

Watch for freebie finds and recycling candidates

Tightwad organizers know that organizing solutions are everywhere. They keep their eyes out for free sources of organizing materials, and don't hesitate to make creative use of found or surplus items.

Warehouse stores--where packing materials are recycled to hold purchases--are a frugal organizer's bowl of cherries. If you have to store it, so do retail stores. Warehouse stores give the goodies away, free, each time you shop. To pick the cherries, eyeball the box pile and make your selections before you begin shopping.

Reinforced cardboard magazine holders masquerade in the guise of office supply display boxes. Boxes designed to hold cold cuts serve to stack cleaning towels in the utility closet.

Two-part produce boxes hold stored clothing in the attic. Recycled wine cases (with dividers!) organize the wine cellar at home just as well as they did in the warehouse store--and do double duty storing delicate Christmas ornaments or surplus glassware.

Don't like seeing the hotdog label each time you open the utility closet? Paint the boxes or cover them with surplus fabric. The price is right!

Recycled packaging can give organizational efforts a frugal boost. Mothers of young children recycle baby wipes packages to hold toys-of-a-thousand-pieces.

Thinking about family preparedness? Empty bleach bottles store water and purify it at the same time, as long as you don't rinse the empty container first.

Boxes that first hold bottled water moonlight as containers for newspaper recycling, and are themselves flattened and recycled on trips to the recycling center. It's a win-win!

Use creativity, not cash

Frugal organizers think past the label and outside the box. Even when they must purchase an item to complete an organization project, they make creative--if unintended--use of common products.

Why buy a pricey "thread organizer" from the crafts store, when you can store tall spools of thread in a lipstick holder from the Dollar Center?

Ever notice that the same item, say, a plastic box with dividers and a lid, can have three different prices when labeled as (1) a box for fishing tackle, (2) a box for small hardware items, and (3) a box to hold cross-stitch thread? 

Is there a cheaper alternative? Tightwad organizers cross-check before they shell out.

Frugal organizers aren't shy about adapting ideas, either. Our frugal friend admired a cross-stitch pattern organizer she'd seen at the crafts store. Each pattern leaflet was threaded onto a plastic bar with three holes. The whole unit could be stored in a large three-ring binder.

At home, the frugal organizer realized that the expensive plastic holders weren't necessary, if she simply used a three-hole punch on the pattern leaflet itself.

Hit the yard sale circuit

Organizer products are like curtains--they go with the house. The nifty wall-hung mop-and-broom rack that worked so well in one home gives way to a smaller
version after moving to another state. 


Shelf racks that worked wonders in an apartment closet are too narrow for the pantry in a new, more spacious house.

The hanging shower organizer that was just right in one bathroom slips right off the shower head in the next.

Result? A whole set of homeless organizing products.

Between moving house and unplanned, impulse purchases, organizing products are a yard sale staple. If you know what you need, you're likely to find it at a yard sale sooner or later.

Don't be put off by dust and stains; plastic products clean up nicely in the dishwasher.

Make your list and hit some yard sales. You'll get organized . . . for less!

Categories: Homekeeping

Magic Minimum: Cleaning Secret of Organized Families

April, 9, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on April 9, 2014

Is it time to clean? Not for today's busy families!

Between work, children's activities, and vacation plans, even the most leisurely days don't seem long enough to get everything done at home.

There's a solution for busy times! Just as your body needs a "minimum daily allowance" of vitamins and minerals, an organized home needs a minimum of maintenance and attention to keep running smoothly.

Think of this as a Magic Minimum: a short list of essential household tasks. It's a bottom-line list of chores and activities necessary to keep things running at a basic level.

With a working Magic Minimum plan, the household stays afloat, even when time is short.

What's on the list? Every family has slightly different needs, but most Magic Minimum checklists provide for these functions:

  • basic accounting chores: bank deposits and bill-paying
  • meals and menus: clean dishes, grocery shopping
  • laundry: necessary clean clothing
  • home management: once-a-day pick-up, weekly cleaning of bathrooms and kitchen

To make your own Magic Minimum plan, list the rock-bottom essential maintenance chores necessary to keep the household clean, fed and on time.

A sample checklist might look like this:

Every day: 

  • Load and run dishwasher 
  • Tidy kitchen 
  • Run one load of laundry, fold and put away 
  • Family pick-up time 

Every week: 

  • Review checkbook and pay bills 
  • Shop for groceries 
  • Vacuum living areas
  • Clean bathrooms

Next step: delegate! Assign one or more minimum chores to each family member. Every family member has a stake in keeping the household functioning, so everyone should be expected to help with the chores. Working together, everyone will be free for family fun in record time.


Finally, post your Magic Minimum list in a public place.

Families using a household notebook will include their list under the "home management" divider.

Other families will post their list to the family command center, while another time-honored choice is the refrigerator door, but use whatever area is central to your family.

The written list aids accountability, because everyone knows what must be done before anyone can leave for a trip to the water park.

Give your household a Magic Minimum to maximize your family's opportunities for good times!

Categories: Homekeeping

Power Tools For An Organized Home

April, 5, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on April 5, 2014

Who among us hasn't squandered a happy afternoon in a store specializing in organizing products?

Drifting from aisle to aisle, we make a mental list: this for the bathroom clutter, that for the computer desk.

All is bliss until we consider the bottom line. Specialty organizers can be costly! Someday, we vow, we'll get organized at home, but for now, budget realities step firmly on organizer dreams.

Stop the presses! Over the years, these top tools have proved their value, and they cost a fraction of the price of specialty products.

Everyday products from office supply and discount stores can take us 80% of the way to total home organization--for 20% of the price. It's a frugal application of the 80/20 rule.

Ready? On to the power tools for home organization!

View Binders and Sheet Protectors

Three-ring view binders and plastic sheet protectors are a top-notch home organizing duo. View binders show off custom covers for everything from recipe archives to crafts organizers.

Clear sheet protectors display recipes, organize articles, safeguard papers and make it easy to find phone number on telephone roster.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! Use view binders and sheet protectors to handle these household chores:

  • Create a Household Notebook: a family organizer for quick reference to important family and household information.
  • Keep calendars, phone lists, kids' sport schedules, and volunteer rosters here. Never look up another pizza delivery number again!
  • Use view binders and sheet protectors to organize and store all home appliance manuals and warranty information in a "Warranties" binder, and never forget how to change all the clocks (oven, thermostat, and security system) on Time Change Sunday.
  • Quilters and crafters use view binders and sheet protectors with our fabric stash organizer to create a portable guide to the fabric stash. Cut swatches from each length in the stash, and fill in amount, fiber, and source locations. Don't leave for the fabric store without it!
  • Simplify home decorating projects by building a Decorating Notebook. Page protectors hold paint chips, fabric swatches, and carpet samples, and organize torn-out articles from home decor magazines. Grab and go!
  • Moving? A three-ring view binder with lots of page protectors holds paperwork, records, utility information and all those business cards.
  • Homeschoolers love three-ring view binders for unit studies, student notebooks and idea files. Organized by student, by subject or by year, homeschooling parents use view binders and sheet protectors to keep homeschool records at their fingertips!
    round up recipes
  • In the kitchen, three-ring view binders keep clipped or copied recipes in visible order.
    A bonus: sheet protectors can be wiped clean if the mixer turns desperado and flings cake batter to the winds (and the walls, the countertop, and the cook).
    create a holiday organizer
  • Conquer holiday-season chaos with a Christmas Planner. Record gift lists and track spending. Plan meals, menus and holiday decorating. Tuck our holiday forms into a three-ring view binder, and send Scrooge packing!
Whiteboard Wizardry

Oh, the magic of a whiteboard!


Also known as a dry erase board, whiteboards pack a powerful organizing punch.

Colorful and easy to use, they're a magnet for creative kids and time-stressed spouses.

Lists, calendars, reminders, menu plans and chore lists all live happily--and colorfully--on the white board.

Put whiteboards to work in your organized home with these ideas:

  • Hang a whiteboard over the telephone to create Command Central.
  • Phone messages are easy to take--and color-coded whiteboard markers (one color for each family member) make messages easy to read.
  • In the kitchen, mount a small magnetic whiteboard to track freezer contents. It's a super resource for once-a-month cooking!
  • A refrigerator-mounted whiteboard keeps an up-to-date shopping list or displays the weekly menu plan.
  • Post a whiteboard in the garage to list house and garden to-do lists. Younger family members greet yard-work weekends more positively when the board--not the parent--tells them what to do.
  • In kids' rooms, replace dusty blackboards with whiteboard/marker sets. Children love the ease and color of using whiteboards. To "record" their artistic creations, use a camera before erasing.
Zip It Up! Zipper Food Storage Bags

Out from the kitchen! Zipper food storage bags have many uses beyond their function as food-savers.

Put these inexpensive, versatile home organizers to work for you:

  • In the sewing and crafts room, extra-large zipper food storage bags sort lengths of interfacing by weight, type and fiber. Pattern pieces can be stored in quart-sized bags; reinforce one corner with tape, punch a hole, and file bags on a shower-curtain ring for a quick pattern file.
  • Create instant "binder pockets" to hold pens, pencils, sewing patterns, fabric swatches or any small items. Reinforce heavy-duty freezer food storage bags with a strip of tape the length of the bottom seam. Punch holes through the taped edge, and insert bag into the binder. [Hint to vacuum sealer owners: use the manual seal function to cut freezer bags to any length and reinforce the hole area.]
  • In the garage, use small bags to store screws or nails, small pieces from appliances or home dec projects, or opened seed packets.
  • Extra-large bags force air out of bulky linens, out-of-season coats or comforters for more efficient storage.
  • When packing for a trip, roll folded clothing in extra-large food storage bags to reduce size and minimize wrinkles. Seal personal care items in smaller freezer storage bags to avoid leaks while traveling.
  • In children's rooms, group tiny toys in sturdy zipper food storage bags. Tip: models with an external "zipper" are easier for little fingers to manage than press-and-seal bags. Store outgrown stuffed animals in extra-large bags to prevent them from gathering dust.

Storage Solution: Records Boxes

There are boxes, and there are boxes. Yes, you can get organized using supermarket castoffs or cut-down packaging from the warehouse store, but inexpensive lidded records boxes earn their keep in an organized home.

Try these tips to streamline storage solutions using records boxes:

  • Planning a whole-house declutter? Records boxes are ideal for the Four-Box or Box and Banish declutter strategies. When each Storage box is full, close the lid and stack it in a storage area. Sharpie markers make it easy to label and index stored boxes.
  • Stacked records boxes simplify storing children's hand-me-downs. storage. Label boxes by gender and size, and stack in order in an out-of-the-way storage spot. Next year, "shop" the storage area before shopping for back-to-school.
  • In adult closets, records boxes provide easy-to-tote seasonal clothing storage. Light enough to tuck on a high shelf, they hold sweaters and summer t-shirts. CEO's storage tip: label one short side "Winter Clothing", the other "Summer Clothing". When seasons change, flip the boxes to the appropriate side. Simple!
  • In the sewing and crafts room, records boxes store fabric, craft materials, yarn, and patterns.
  • Moving? Records boxes' uniform size, built-in handles, and ability to stack make them a mover's best friend. Use clear packing tape to hold lids in place. Strong enough to tote heavy items, records boxes can be recycled for household storage after the move.
Sharp Ideas: Sharpie™ Permanent Marker

There's only one power tool that I ask for by name: Sanford Corp's Sharpie™ Permanent Marker. From attic to basement, these little markers make a big dent in the drive toward an organized home.

Try these sharp ideas to get organized:

  • If it stands still, label it! Sharpie's™ clear, colorful ink works on cardboard, plastic, paper and cloth. Multiple colors let families color-code items all around the house. Use Sharpie™ to label records boxes for storage, decluttering or organization projects.
  • Smart freezer cooks
    use Sharpie™ to write preparation instructions on packaging for once-a-month cooking freezer entrees. Any family member over age 10 can prepare dinner if it's labeled "unwrap meal, place in square glass casserole dish, cover with aluminum foil and heat at 350 degrees for 60 minutes."
  • In the laundry room, Sharpie™ labels clothing to speed laundry chores. Use colored dots on clothing labels to identify family member. Can't tell one pair of jeans from another? Write the owner's name on the inside pocket lining with a dark-colored Sharpie™. Sorting nightmare solved!
  • Does your mailing center include a handful of Sharpies™? It should! Avoid the need for special mailing labels and make life easier for the postman by writing addresses directly on shipping cartons with a Sharpie™ pen.
  • In kids' rooms, use Sharpie™ and removable labels to mark shelf edges in closets, or the slender rim at the top of drawers. Draw a picture or write the word of the items that belong there to help children put away games, toys and clothing.
  • Holding a yard sale this spring? Sharpie™ and masking tape are all you need to mark prices on sale items. Write on the roll, then tear and transfer the "price tag." Use Sharpie™and bright-colored posterboard to create easy-to-spot signs directing shoppers to your sale.
  • Crafts and sewing enthusiasts know that fine-point Sharpies™ create faces for dolls, names for clothing labels, and work beautifully with freezer paper to copy or mark sewing patterns.
  • A final tip: when Sanford Corp. says "permanent", they mean it! Store Sharpie™ out of the reach of children. After the first time you try to scrub Sharpie™ "tattoos" from the hands of an active son, you'll remember.
Sink Disorganization with Dishpans

Durable dishpans, with so many uses around the house. Yes, they'll wash dishes, babies or clothing, but bring these home organizing helpers out from under the sink!

Here are more ideas for using dishpans around the house:

  • You love small kitchen appliances, but not the hassle of collecting the strayed and scattered pieces to mixers, food processors and slicers. Solution? Assign each a dishpan, and store inside kitchen cabinets. Most appliances will fit inside with room to spare for blades and beaters and attachments. Bonus: dishpan appliance storage makes it easy to keep kitchen counters clear!
  • In the kitchen, a dishpan is also the solution for storing pot lids. small plastic food containers, and cake decorating supplies.
  • In the garage, corral small power tools and attachments, hardware, plumbing parts, gardening tools or cleaning supplies in dishpans.
  • Washing the car? Next time, it'll be easier if washing solution, wax, tire treatment, plastic protectant, rags and towels live in their own dishpan. It's waterproof!
  • In the bathroom, dishpans keep Mom's curler collection in one place, ready for use on special occasions. Ditto first-aid supplies, cleaning solutions or extra personal care products.
  • Dishpans make light, sturdy flip-files for children's books, and they're container of choice for kids' launch pads--a central site to collect school papers, lunch bags, notebooks and show-and-tell items.
  • Parents can use dishpans, too, for purses, wallets, keys, library books and other morning madness items. Buy different colors for each family member.
Clear-View Drawer Towers Take The Day //-->

There's one specialty home organizing product worthy of special mention: clear-view drawers and drawer towers.

If you can see it, you can find it with these versatile products!

Clear-view drawers can be used separately or stacked as towers.

Add casters and storage towers roll to any area where they're needed.

  • Use small clear-view drawers in the pantry to contain and display packets of seasoning and gravy mixes or powdered soft drink envelopes. Larger drawers hold floppy bags of pasta or assorted open bags of potato chips.
  • Clear-view storage towers are made for sewing, quilting, scrapbooking or crafts. From fat quarters to hanks of elastic, clear-view drawers hold it all. Stampers use large drawers to hold paper, small drawers for stamps and ink.
  • Homeschoolers, take note! "School" can be contained in a single large-drawer storage tower. Assign one drawer for each child, one for administration. Books, papers, assignments and manipulatives find happy homes in clear-view drawers. Roll the tower into a closet or storage area after school hours. Neat solution!
Categories: Homekeeping

Clean Sweep? The Case Against Spring Cleaning

March, 31, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 31, 2014

Spring blows in with warm wind and the promise of ... spring cleaning?

With the coming of spring, even the most casual home managers feel an inexplicable urge to move furniture, clean windows and vacuum baseboards to welcome the return of sunshine and warmer weather.

But is spring cleaning really necessary?

Certainly, there's a lot to be said for the notion of spring cleaning. It's a good time of year to rout out the dirt, dust and disorder that's crept into the home since the holiday season. By doing a thorough clean once a year, no area of the home gets too far removed from the results earned by energetic mops, vacuums and cleaning cloths. Longer days bring a new burst of energy for many of us, and using that bonus to deep-clean our homes seems like a good match for rising springtime spirits.

Then there's another point of view: that spring cleaning is unnecessary in an organized modern home.

The Case Against Spring Cleaning

Historic reasons for a traditional spring clean are no longer a factor in the vast majority of today's homes. When homes were heated with wood, coal or coal oil furnaces, the winter heating season brought a build-up of soot and ash on walls, furniture and fabrics. Spring cleaning marked the end of the heating season, when the entire house was aired and scrubbed clean of the dim, smoky film given off by older heat sources.

But with today's heating technology, this rationale no longer applies. Today's central or forced air furnaces, disposable air filters, and air filtration systems prevent a build-up of soot or film--and knock the props out from under the idea of a top-to-bottom spring clean.

Modern lives, too, no longer possess the rhythm and pace required to sustain an old-fashioned cleaning marathon. Today's working moms or active mothers of young children don't have the ability to clear two weeks of other commitments to engage in a full-time, full-bore spring cleaning session.

The notion of turning the house upside down each spring for a thorough cleaning seems as quaint as grandmother's house dresses to today's busy home managers--and it's certain that most of us no longer enjoy grandmother's access to paid household help, either.

Then there's the inevitable backlash! By the time modern families finish a whole-house deep-clean, we're apt to be so exhausted and alienated from our mops and buckets that we allow cleaning to slide--often for months to a year afterward! Instead of a reasonably clean house all the year long, spring-cleaners sometimes slip into peaks and valleys of clean versus dirty.

Finally, there are valid maintenance reasons NOT to defer deep cleaning to a single, yearly session.


Carpeting lasts longest if maintained by frequent vacuuming and regular cleaning, which prevents deposit of abrasive grit deep within the fibers.

Deferring needed carpet cleaning until spring causes unnecessary wear and works against the goal of a clean house.

Similarly, windows which are washed on a regular schedule won't develop the scale build-up requiring special treatment in a once-a-year cleaning session.

Exhaustion. Lack of time. No more seasonal need. The goal of better home maintenance EVERY day. All these factors weigh in against the idea of a good old-fashioned spring cleaning session.

The Solution: A Household Cleaning Plan

So how do we replace spring cleaning? With a workable household cleaning plan.

Homes cleaned according to a household cleaning plan stay reasonably clean all the time--and even when they slip, can be pulled back into line easily.

Instead of a single yearly intense cleaning period, a cleaning plan provides for routine deep-cleaning of each room in the house, on a regular, staggered schedule.

A cleaning plan integrates seasonal cleaning chores into daily or weekly cleaning sessions, and no task goes too long without being done. Result: a clean home the year around.

How do you develop a cleaning plan for your organized home?

The best plans are individualized for your own family's needs. Tempting as it is to jump into a canned routine of lists and schedules, it's hard to sustain the energy to continue if you're either cleaning already-clean areas (because the plan says you should!) or living with neglected corners (because they weren't part of the plan!).

While there are lots of "Do it my way!" options out there, rigid methods fail most folks in the long term, because they're not suited to the unique needs and challenges of any given family. Just ask all the "Week Three drop-outs" about the disappointment they face after. an intense flirtation with somebody else's cleaning plan!


No, a cleaning plan must be home-grown. While the steps are fairly simple--identify the household's cleaning needs, decide on frequency of cleaning tasks, set up a calendar or tickler file to schedule cleaning chores, and assign chores to the time periods mandated by the calendar--the devil is in the details ... and the doing.

Will you spring-clean your home this year?

For some of us, like this writer, there will be no choice: the house must be reclaimed, top to bottom, from built-up dirt and disorder.

But you can bet that as my dust cloths fly (Aaaa-CHOO!), I'll be thinking of how I never intend to face spring cleaning again. What will my secret be? A household cleaning plan!

Categories: Homekeeping

Five Tips For Spring Cleaning With Kids

March, 23, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 23, 2014

Spring cleaning is on the horizon, and you could use some help. It's time to try a team approach to seasonal cleaning.

Many hands make light work ... so how do you get the kids to pitch in when it's time to spring-clean the house?

Try these five tips to involve children with housecleaning chores.

Think teamwork

It's downright lonely to be sentenced to clean a bathroom on your own, but paired with a parent, even a 5-year-old can work safely and happily. While Dad wields the bowl cleaner and the tile brush, his helper can scrub the sink, polish the fixtures, empty the trash and trundle towels and rugs to the laundry room.

Working as a team involves kids in the cleaning process, helps them learn cleaning skills, and most important, models both the attitude and the job standard you're trying to teach.

Take your voice out of the process

Children have an innate ability to "tune out" parents, when the subject is chores. What parent wants to spend a Saturday nagging, threatening and hollering, "You get back here and finish the vacuuming!"?

Instead, post a list of the day's jobs, or write them out on index cards. Divvy the jobs up between the teams, or let each team choose one until the work is done. Putting the work on paper removes the tussle of wills.

Make time fly with media motivators

Playing upbeat music or an exciting audiobook keeps spirits high--and dust cloths moving. For maximum motivation, let each helper choose his or her tunes throughout the day.

Delegate "big jobs" to teens

Once adolescence hits, working on a parent's "team" loses it's appeal. Solution? Delegate big--but safe--jobs to teen children.


Whether they clean and organize the garage, shampoo the living room carpet, or restore order to a jumbled linen closet, they'll take pride in their work IF you truly let them own the job ... and make it a big one!

The more challenging the task, the more your teen will learn.

Ignore all bleating and moaning, and praise their solutions to the skies.

In spite of their complaints, they won't let you down.

Reward hard work

Spring cleaning is nobody's idea of a good time, so plan for a reward for your workers. When the chores are done, schedule a family treat.

Whether it's pizza for lunch or a trip to the video store for an evening film-fest, you'll get better results--and sweeten attitudes--if there's a payoff at the end of the day.

Categories: Homekeeping

Spring Cleaning Chore Checklist

March, 17, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 17, 2014

March winds blow, telling us that Spring is on the way!

Warming breezes scour the last of winter from house and garden. Spring rain awakens the earth and calls forth new life.

Meet the rising sap with a new broom. Spring clean indoors and out to prepare home and hearth for the return of warm weather.

Our Spring cleaning chore checklist will help you take care of important seasonal chores and welcome Spring to an organized home.

Around The House:
  • Schedule a family garage clean-out. Create efficient storage for sporting goods, camping equipment, recreational vehicles, and garden tools. You'll have the jump on summer fun!
  • Inspect, clean and repair outdoor furniture.
  • Tour house exterior and grounds. Make a list of any needed seasonal maintenance.
  • Inspect the roof for winter damage: leaks, missing or broken shingles or tiles. Arrange for any needed repairs early; roofing contractors can be hard to find during summer's construction season.
  • Use a sunny Saturday to scrape, prime and paint peeling spots on trim or woodwork. You'll protect wood against Summer's heat and moisture--and prevent a more difficult paint job come fall.
  • Clear away any remaining dead foliage and weeds from beds and lawn. New growth will be protected from damage or disease.
  • Begin major Spring landscaping projects. Spring's the time to put in shrubs and trees, but check with your local extension office for specific planting recommendations for your area.
The Inside Story:
  • Changing seasons, changing clothes. Hold a family wardrobe check as you bring out warm-weather clothing. Sort winter clothing for discards and donations before you store.
  • Hold a garage sale! Declutter house and garage to turn trash into cash. Build your yard sale savvy here.
  • Pick a weekend and enlist the family for Spring cleaning. Many hands make light work! Reward the team with dinner at a pizza parlor.
  • Wash windows inside and out.
  • While at the window area, check drapes and window treatments. Vacuum any dust; send dirtier drapes to the cleaners.
  • Move furniture and vacuum beneath it.
  • Arrange for a spring inspection of cooling systems. Don't wait for the first hot day! Air conditioning firms will give better service when they're not busy.
  • When the weather warms, deactivate heat system humidifiers. Check the system manual for instructions on how to power down for the summer.
  • Drain sediment from hot water heaters.
Categories: Homekeeping

Challenge Day 72: Power Up Your Storage Tools

March, 17, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 17, 2014

Diving into storage areas this week, it'll be a week devoted to boxes and labels and oh! those garbage bags.

How to make this big job a bit easier? Check your tools! Having the items you need to bring order to storage areas on hand will make the job fly.

Better still, you won't need to bankrupt yourself at those pricey "organizer" stores to create an organized home. Simple tools and inexpensive products are mainstays when getting organized ... because it's all in how you use them!

Today, take stock of organizing tools as we tackle storage areas in the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge.

Power Tools for an Organized Home

Categories: Homekeeping

Challenge Day 71: Attic/Basement Storage Week

March, 16, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 16, 2014

Spring weather puts storage areas into new prominence, as we search for outdoor equipment and seasonal clothing.

Time to head to attic and basement storage areas in the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge!

This week, we'll plan, declutter and organize storage areas in attic or basement.

Ready? We're sorting storage this week in the Cleaning Grand Plan!

Today's Assignment:
Attic / Basement Week

Stored stuff can acquire a "bread dough" quality, expanding to fill the space available. This week, we're taking on attic and basement storage areas in the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge.

Assessing household storage, we'll make a storage plan to guide the where-and-how of stored items.

Releasing our hold on unneeded items and clutter, we'll do an in-depth declutter session to hone stored possessions.

To really clear the decks, we'll consider holding a yard sale to free up storage space and score some cash.

Ready? It's Attic/Basement Storage Week in the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge!

Cleaning Grand Plan - Attic/Basement Storage

Categories: Homekeeping

Challenge Day 70: Kids' Room Week Wrap-Up

March, 15, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 15, 2014

It's been all things kid this week in the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge, as we've decluttered, cleaned and organized children's rooms.

Today, take the last steps to bring children's rooms to a state of clean and orderly..

Tomorrow, the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge moves storage areas in attic and basement. Are you ready to clean out stored stuff to welcome Spring?

Today's Assignment:
Wrap Up Kids' Room Week

Children's rooms have take center stage this week in the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge. We've cut clutter, right-sized storage and organization, and learned ways to include children in cleaning and seasonal chores.

Today, review your children's room week checklist. If possible, complete the last few tasks today. You'll set the stage for next week's focus area: attic and basement storage areas.

No time to finish today? Note remaining tasks, and add them to your to-do list or planner to be tackled when time permits. Can you delegate any remaining chores?

Remember: there's no such thing as "behind"; every step you take is one more stride toward a clean and organized home!

Categories: Homekeeping

Challenge Day 69: Spring Cleaning With Kids

March, 14, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 14, 2014

Days are getting longer and the temperature's rising: it's time for spring-cleaning!

Why work alone?

Today in the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge, get tips to bring children onboard when it's time for seasonal cleaning.

Working together teaches skills, builds teamwork, and shares the fun! Try it today in your organized home.

Today's Assignment:
Spring Cleaning with Kids

Teaching children how to do housework encourages responsibility and builds skills important for adult life, so why leave them out when it's time for seasonal deep-cleaning?

Spring and Fall cleaning sessions are a great time to bring children onboard.

If you'll deep-clean your home this Spring, try these tips to involve children in seasonal cleaning. Their future partners will thank you!

Five Tips for Spring-Cleaning with Kids

Categories: Homekeeping

Challenge Day 68: Try a Toy Jail

March, 13, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 13, 2014

Tired of waking each morning to a sea of toys left out after yesterday's play?

Try a toy jail!

This simple concept helps train children to the put-away habit and brings an end to early-morning stumbles over Lego creations.

Designate a toy jail in today's Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge assignment.

Today's Assignment:
Try A Toy Jail

Tired of stumbling over children's toys after bedtime? We've mentioned this in passing, but as an organizing concept, the toy jail deserves an assignment all its own!

A simple basket, box or plastic container, a toy jail holds all playthings that have not been put away at the end of the day. After bedtime, grab the container and sweep public areas of any left-out toys.

To retrieve a toy, a child must perform a small chore. The practice teaches responsibility--and makes sure adults aren't stumbling over scattered playthings when called awake during the wee hours!

Many families create a "job jar" in tandem with the toy jail concept, making administration easier. Write out a number of simple chores on small slips of paper: "set the table", "sweep the porch", or "dust the living room" are examples of suitable bail items for jailed toys.

The toy jail. You have nothing to lose but bruised feet!

Categories: Homekeeping

Kids and Chores: Chilling The Chore Wars

March, 12, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 12, 2014

When it comes to kids and housework, the blasted terrain is familiar: a dirty house, balky children, and frazzled, frustrated parents.

Tired parents try it all, from chore charts to screaming fits.Canny children engage in housework sabotage, selective hearing or childish irresponsibility to duck assignments.

The noise levels--and stress levels--rise along with the stacks of dishes.

How to negotiate a peace on the issue of children and chores?

Try these family-tested strategies to calm the conflict and gain the goal.

The Buck(et) Stops Here

We have met the enemy, and it is us! Lingering ambivalence about our family's life and our own choices can keep us from successfully gaining kid cooperation where household chores are concerned.

Perhaps we grew up in a home heavy with sex-role stereotypes but have chosen a different viewpoint. Maybe we work, and feel a lingering guilt. Some of us may still harbor childish resentment against our own parents, and feel uneasy about "making" children do household chores.

Whatever the reason, an ambivalent mindset can sabotage attempts to enlist children in the fight. Too often, we announce a new regime of household chores in a moment of anger and frustration. Elaborate chore charts are made and ignored after the third day. Family meetings are held which settle nothing more than another layer of dust on the television.

This time, resolve to succeed. The place to start is with our own thinking. Housework is an inevitable part of life. Just as we prepare our children for their adult lives by sending them to school, so we need to prepare them to manage and maintain a home. Housework is an integral part of life for everyone, man, woman, and child. In today's busy families, there's no excuse for anybody to shirk their portion of the necessary work.

A parent who knows this truth in his or her bones has a huge advantage. No more peaks-and-valleys cycles of "You will help with the chores!" followed by a relapse into "Ehhh, why bother? It's easier to do it myself!" Calm, determined parents who view household work as just another life skill are inoculated against childish manipulation and evasion. Motivated by parental love and responsibility, you'll go farther than fits-and-starts efforts fired by anger and frustration.

Start Small

The easiest way to secure your children's assistance with housework is to train them to it from the time they are small. A one-year-old will giggle if handed a clean diaper to dust the legs of the furniture.


Preschoolers enjoy being with parents, working with parents. Nothing can be so much fun as washing a car with a five-year-old! (A pause for a tear-in-eye here, remembering my five-year-old younger son staggering from the garage with the car-wash bucket and supplies, and announcing, proudly, "Mommy, we're the Clean-Up Chappies!")

Problem is, these little ones' efforts don't yet have the power to be of great help. In truth, you'll probably have to follow behind that one-year-old with his diaper duster, removing the specks of dirt he's rearranged.

Even when you match the chore to the child, the early years require some extra work from you.

Listen up, parents of tiny children: just do it! You have two tasks during these years.

The short-term goal is to get the house clean; the more important duty is to teach your children to work. Focus on the first task to the exclusion of the second, and you're going to have "They think I'm the maid!" days, weeks, years in your future. An investment in your child's learning now will reap abundant fruit in just a few years. Neglect this job, and you're walking into a lion's den once little ones are little no longer.

Make Like A Glacier

So your children are at an age to be of help, but their idea of "helping" is lifting their feet from the floor so you can vacuum beneath them? The temptation is to declare, "New Program!" and institute sweeping, dramatic changes in the life of the house. Most of the time, the new rules only last as long as you are prepared to enforce them. In normal experience: less than a week. Life returns to dull normal, and you're back in the soup.

Instead, remember the glacier. Each year, just a bit more snow falls upon a growing glacier, but over time, the result is powerful enough to grind boulders into pebbles and scour mountain passes to bedrock.

Make changes gradually, involving children in chores slowly. This month, decide that one child will assist with pre-dinner preparation, the other help with clean-up. Next month, begin a Saturday morning family clean-a-thon. By the end of the year, teach the eldest child to do his or her own laundry, and put the younger child in charge of collecting newspapers, bottles and cans for recycling. By the following summer, teach them to help you weed and prune in the yard.

Gradual change has many advantages over the "You will help!" confrontational method. It gives you time to teach a child your household's standard for each cleaning chore. It involves children in housework more naturally, and in tandem with a helping parent. It doesn't require a noisy, angry family shake-up-and stands less chance of triggering a child's natural "I don't wanna!" response.

Gradual change also acknowledges certain human limitations. It takes 21 days to make a habit. It's extremely difficult to form more than one habit at a time. Your child isn't the only one whose habits have to change! You, too, will have the time to revamp your thinking and your practices if you institute change slowly but surely.

Tap The Power of Choice

One area where a family meeting on the chore issue bears fruit: choice. Children who are given a choice of chores do them better and more happily. While you may have to readjust your thinking on "who should do what", your children's choices may surprise you!

In our household, my children were allowed to select their own chores on cleaning days. Using a tickler file on 3-by-5 cards, I'd lay out cards for the day's jobs, and the kids took turns choosing which tasks they'd do.

One child is the world's finest cleaner of bathrooms (aside from using enough water to fill Lake Michigan) but she hates the noise and boredom of vacuuming. Guess what? The other child loves to push that vacuum across the carpet, but hates getting his hands wet.

This method worked even better when heavy fall or spring cleaning was necessary. The children would be eager to try dirty, rugged tasks like "change the filters on the furnace" or "wash outside patio doors". If I kept an open mind and allowed them to choose their own tasks, the work was finished sooner and far more pleasantly than if I assigned jobs according to my ideas.

Make Housework A Partnership

Children are naturally immune to "do as I say, not as I do." The best motivator for young people is a chance to work together with an adult.


You'll get more cooperation from children of all ages when the family does housework together.

Resist the temptation to splinter out cleaning chores. From a child's point of view, it's downright lonely to be sentenced to clean a bathroom each afternoon after school.

Better: institute a family Pick Up Time each day, a family Clean Up Time each week.

Even if that same child is alone in that same bathroom, he knows that all the other family members are hard at work, too. Cleaning misery loves company, you might say.

Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks

Cleaning methods are a frequent bone of contention between parents and chore-doing children. Mom's not unreasonable to want the kids to do things her way, but a too-strong insistence on "the right way" can add another element of conflict and resistance to this issue.

To teach, one must first learn. To speed family cleaning sessions, find the best and fastest way to get the job done.

Professional cleaners complete their jobs in a fraction of the time taken by amateur home managers. To do so, they use efficient cleaning methods. Read all about them in our article, Speed-Clean Tips From Cleaning Pros.

This is one area where parents and kids agree: faster is better where housework is concerned!

Stay the Course

At the end of the day, there's bad news and good news on the issue of kids and chores.

Bad news first: chore wars will always be with us. No matter how smooth, efficient or well-thought-out your family housework plan, the job of reconciling children and housework will never disappear entirely. It's simply not in children's nature to prefer scrubbing toilets to playing games on the Wii. On this issue, you'll always have to stay the course.

The good news? There can be great joy working with children to manage and clean a home.


The joys vary with age.What parent can resist a preschooler's pride when he first sets the family dinner table, crooked cutlery and all?

Raking leaves with a grade-schooler is a great time to find out what's really going at school.

Working together to change the oil in the car can lubricate scratchy parent-teen relationships, too.

Make a home for your children with your children. These aren't just chores we're talking about! This is life itself.

Who better to share it with than the little people you love?

Categories: Homekeeping

Challenge Day 67: Chill the Chore Wars

March, 12, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 12, 2014

Kids being kids, keeping a clean house is a struggle on a good day--and getting them to pitch in with household chores can rise to the level of a battle.

How do you chill the chore wars?

Today in the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge, we'll consider ways to build teamwork and teach important life skills when it comes to cleaning house.

Try these ideas to bring the family onboard.

Today's Assignment:
Chill the Chore Wars

Cleaning house is a part of life for everyone, but you wouldn't know it, given the fuss children can put up on the subject of household chores! Evasion and backtalk, procrastination and intentional sabotage can make it tough to build family teamwork where housework is concerned.

Flak notwithstanding, children benefit when the household works together to keep a clean and organized home. Involving children with housework not only eases parental burdens, but also teaches important skills for adult life.

Today, consider these ways to involve children with household chores without losing your temper ... or your mind.

Kids and Chores: Chilling the Chore Wars

Categories: Homekeeping

8 Great Tips To Organize Kids' Rooms

March, 11, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 11, 2014

It's the battle cry of millions of parents: "Clean your room!" Will it ring out in your house today?

Seasonal events like birthdays, the holidays or a new school year bring fresh motivation to the drive to get kids organized--and nowhere is the battleground more intense than in the children's bedrooms.

How do you help your child organize and clean up life in the bedroom?

Try these eight easy organization strategies to calm clutter and bring order to kids' rooms.

Take a child's eye view

Get down to your child's eye level to help him or her get organized. Look at your child's space, storage, furniture and possessions from his or her vantage point. The view may surprise you!

Adult furniture and organizing systems don't translate well to children's needs. Sticky dresser drawers are hard for small hands to manage. Folding closet doors pinch fingers and jump their rails when pushed from the bottom. Closet hanging rods are out of reach, while adult hangers don't fit smaller clothing. Traditional toy boxes house a tangled jumble of mixed and scattered toy parts.

To organize a child's room, solutions must fit the child. For younger children, remove closet doors entirely. Lower clothing rods and invest in child-sized hangers. Use floor-level open containers to hold toys, open plastic baskets to store socks and underwear.

Devise a simple daily checklist for maintenance. To organize a child's room, tailor the effort to the child.

Bring the child into the process

Resist the urge to wade into the mess alone, garbage bags flying. Gritted teeth and threats of "You will keep this room clean!" don't touch the root of the problem: teaching children organization skills and maintenance methods.

Instead, look at the organization process as a learning activity, and put the focus on the child. Professional organizer Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out, recommends that you view your role as that of organizational consultant to your child.

As his or her guide, survey what's working, what's not, what's important to the child, what's causing the problems, and why the child wants to get organized.

Partnered with your child, you stand a better chance of devising an organization scheme and system that makes sense to him or her. If they're involved in the effort, children are better able to understand the organizational logic and maintain an organized room.

Sort, store and simplify

It's a conundrum! Children's rooms are usually small, often shared, and generally lack built-in storage. Yet these rooms are host to out-of-season and outgrown clothing, surplus toys, and even household overflow from other rooms. Kids can't stay organized when the closet is crammed, the drawers are stuffed, and playthings cover each square inch of carpet.


The solution: sort, store and simplify.

Begin with clothing: sort it out! Store out-of-season or outgrown clothing elsewhere.

Finally, simplify! Does your son really wear all 27 T-shirts crowding his drawer? Remove the extras so the remainder can stay neat and orderly in the available space.

For younger children, a toy library is the answer to over-abundant toys. Using a large lidded plastic storage container, large box or even plastic garbage bag, entrust a selection of toys to the "toy library." Store the container in an out-of-the way place for several months.

Some rainy day, bring out the toy library, swapping the stored toys for other playthings that have lost their savor. The stored toys will have regained their interest and freshness--and they won't have been underfoot in the child's room.

Older kids can utilize higher closet shelves to "store" some of their belongings. Clear plastic shoebox storage containers hold little pieces and identify the contents.

Contain, corral and control

Toy boxes and open shelves are no place to store children's possessions, particularly those involving many tiny parts. To organize toys, think "contain, corral and control."

Contain toys and other belongings before you store. Use plastic shoebox containers for smaller toys (Barbie clothes, Happy Meal give-aways), larger lidded bins for blocks, trucks and cars, light-weight cardboard records boxes for stuffed animals. Use specialty organizers to corral magazines and comic books, video games, or CDs and cassette tapes.

A bonus: containers help parents control the number of toys out at any one time: "Sure, you can play with the farm set, just as soon as the Matchbox cars go back into their home!"

Make it easier to put away, harder to get out

The premier rule for efficient children's storage? Make it easier to put something away than it is to get it out.

For example, store picture books as a flip-file, standing upright in a plastic dishpan. The child flips through the books, makes his selection, and tosses the book in the front of the dishpan when he's done.

Compare a traditional bookcase, where little fingers can pull down a whole shelf faster than they can replace one book. Build the effort into the getting out, not the putting away.

Organize bottom to top

Befitting a child's shorter stature, start organizing from the bottom of the room, and work to the top. Most used toys and belongings should live on lower shelves, in lower drawers, or on the floor. Higher levels are designated for less-frequently-used possessions.

Working bottom to top, the best-loved teddy bear sits in a small rocker on the floor, while the extensive Grandma-driven bear collection is displayed on a shelf built 6 feet up the wall.

Label, label, label

When it comes to keeping kids' rooms organized for the long haul, labels save the day!

Use a computer printer to make simple graphic labels for young children. Pictures of socks, shirts, dolls or blocks help remind the child where these items belong. Enhance reading skills for older children by using large-type word labels.

Slap labels everywhere: inside and outside of drawers, on shelf edges and on the plastic shoebox storage containers that belong there, on boxes and bookcases and filing cubes.

Playing "match the label" can be fun--and turns toy pickup into a game.

Build a maintenance routine

The usual peaks and valleys approach to room cleaning can vex and frustrate children. Their room is clean, they play, and suddenly, their room is back to messy normal.


Help children stop the cycle by building maintenance routines into the family's day.

"Morning Pickup" straightens the comforter, returns the pillow to the bed, and gets yesterday's clothing to the laundry hamper.

"Evening Pickup" precedes dressing for bed, and involves putting away the day's toys.

Building routines into the family's schedule will keep disorder from becoming overwhelming. Tap them today in your organized home!

Categories: Homekeeping

Challenge Day 66: Cut Down On Toy Clutter

March, 11, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 11, 2014

One big obstacle to organizing children's rooms? Too many toys!

Whether it's fast food freebies, mushrooming collections or over-buying by doting grandparents (Guilty!), it's easy for children's toys to pile up well beyond their play value. How do you pull the plug on toy excess?

Try these tips to identify toy keepers, turf surplus toys, and rotate the family's toy collection to cut down on toy clutter.

Today's Assignment:
Cut Down on Toy Clutter

Toy gridlock is easy to spot: from the center of a room full of toys, a plaintive voice cries, "I don't have anything to play with!" With too many toys spilling from every storage space, children find it difficult to focus.

Fewer toys means more play value, and makes it easier to keep children's rooms clean and organized. Try these ideas to hone down family toy collections to the hard-playing minimum.

Identify the Keepers

Before you open a single toy box, spend some time watching your children at play and identify good candidates for a slimmed-down toy collection. Focus on your children's favorite toys, but also consider these standards for creative play:

  • Blocks or structural sets, such as Lego-brand construction blocks
  • Art and craft supplies
  • Dolls, puppets and stuffed animals for imaginative play
  • Puzzles and board games
  • Active toys such as balls and sports equipment

These "high play value" keepers will form the backbone of your new, streamlined toy collection.

Swap or Donate Surplus Toys

Armed with a short list of toy keepers, it's time to sort through the toy mountain. Even discarding toys that are broken, worn-out or missing parts, you're likely to end up with a good amount of usable but surplus toys. As you work, look into options to swap, consign or donate surplus toys.

Children's consignment stores will often accept quality playthings in good condition. Whether you're paid in cash, or in store credit, consignment allows you to exchange the value remaining in outgrown toys for items that have more appeal.

Check with other families to set up an informal toy swap. This concept works well with younger children, who outgrow toys quickly. Exchanging your played-out belongings for fresh items from another family is a great way to extend your toy dollar! Schools and day care centers sometimes sponsor more formal toy swap events, so be on the lookout for swap possibilities.

Finally, donating toys can benefit your own children as well as others. Selecting and dropping off donated toys is a great hands-on lesson for your children, and keeps toys in use and out of the landfill.

Rotate the Toy Collection //-->

Keep the "play" in your children's playthings fresh, even in a honed-down toy collection, by storing and rotating toys regularly.

As you sort toys, place items in plastic bins, and store them away from the children's room for a few weeks. After a month or so, swap out one or more bins for toys currently in active play.

Time away from the toy refreshes play value, especially for younger children--and having a good percentage of the family toy collection in storage at any one time cuts down on toy clutter!

Categories: Homekeeping

Challenge Day 65: Organize Children's Rooms

March, 10, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 10, 2014

What's the secret to happy order in children's rooms? You've got to get 'em organized!

Child-friendly storage solutions and daily maintenance routines are key to keeping children's rooms in a state of livable, but children aren't born with innate organizing skills.

As a parent, it's your job to play professional organizer to teach the little ones the skills they need.

Today in the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge, we'll consider eight great ideas to get the children and their bedrooms organized--and keep them that way!

Today's Assignment:
Organize Children's Rooms

Faced with a disorderly child's bedroom, it's tempting to throw up your hands and give the time-honored parent's cry: "Go clean your room!" Problem is, children aren't born with the knowledge and skills they need to solve a problem as complex as a disorganized bedroom.

To succeed at getting organized, children need partnership with an adult. Working together, you'll help them let go of children's clutter, solve storage issues, create a new organized framework, and put routines into place to maintain it.

Today in the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge, learn how to work together with your child to get organized successfully. Try these eight tips to organize children's bedrooms:

Eight Great Tips to Organize Kids Rooms

Categories: Homekeeping

Challenge Day 64: Kids Room Week

March, 9, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 9, 2014

Today's the day, and we're jumping for joy: it's Kids' Room Week in the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge.

Kids and their stuff bring special challenges to an organized home.

We'll investigate solutions to storing children's toys, games and clothing, tapping right-sized organizing options and kid-friendly maintenance routines to keep children's rooms ship-shape.

Along the way, we'll declutter and deep-clean children's rooms, and prepare for warm-weather activities ahead.

Ready? Bring on the small stuff--and their stuff--for Kids' Room Week!

Today's Assignment:
Kids' Room Week

Do little ones (or not-so-little ones) make a home in your household? This week, we're taking on children's rooms in the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge.

If you're living in a household with children, you know the issues. Adult-scale storage solutions don't work well for children's toys and clothing.

Playthings come with multiple tiny pieces that scatter from one end of the house to the other.

Children change and grow so quickly that limited storage space becomes clogged, making it hard to find clothing that fits or toys that fit their interests.

Complicating the problem? Children feel ownership of their space and their stuff, and can resist needed changes. "Clean your room!" battles wage, and nobody wins.

This week, we'll focus on ways to bring order and peace to children's rooms. We'll investigate ways to partner with children to cut clutter, and to institute daily routines to help keep spaces clean and organized.

We'll consider the Chore Wars, and work on ways to create a win-win partnership for family chores.

Finally, we'll share tips to involve children in Spring cleaning and teach needed domestic skills for adult life ... without losing your mind.

Ready? It's Kids' Room Week in the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge!

Cleaning Grand Plan - Kids' Room

Categories: Homekeeping

Challenge Day 63: Guest Room Week Wrap-Up

March, 8, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 8, 2014

It's been a free-form week here at the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge. We've tackled the guest room (if we have one), and have used the week to catch up or to work on a bonus area in the household.

Today, take the last steps to clean, declutter and organize the guest room or bonus area.

Tomorrow, the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge moves to the children's rooms. We'll take on the small stuff next week; are you ready?

Today's Assignment:
Wrap Up Guest/Bonus Room Week

This week, many of us have "done our own thing", as the Cleaning Grand Plan takes us to the guest room. With luck, it's been a week to catch up to the plan, bring order to a bonus area, or just take a breather.

Today, review your guest/bonus room week checklist. If possible, complete the last few tasks today. You'll set the stage for next week's focus area: children's rooms.

No time to finish today? Note remaining tasks, and add them to your to-do list or planner to be tackled when time permits. Can you delegate any remaining chores?

Remember: there's no such thing as "behind"; every step you take is one more stride toward a clean and organized home!

Categories: Homekeeping

What's Your Clutter Personality Type?

March, 7, 2014
Posted by Cynthia Ewer on March 7, 2014

It's silent. It's sneaky. It creeps about in corners: clutter! When the state of the house aggravates you to your last nerve, it's tempting to launch an all-out battle in the war against clutter.

First, though, know your enemy!

There are as many reasons for household clutter as there are clutterers. As Pogo says, "We have seen the enemy, and he is us!"

Take aim on your household's clutter problem by going to the root of the problem: your own thinking.

What's your clutter personality ... and which of these internal voices strikes a chord?

The Hoarder: "This might come in handy someday!"

Hoarding is rooted in insecurity, financial or otherwise. Deep down, Hoarders fear that they'll never have the resources they need if they let go of any possession, no matter how worn, useless or superfluous.

If cabinets and closets are crammed with egg cartons, cracked margarine containers, and old magazines, there's likely Hoarding behavior underlying the clutter.

Hoarders need to be remind themselves that resources will always be available. Where can a Hoarder look outside the home for a substitute Hoard?

Reassure yourself! Stuff will be with us always. Look around, you'll find that magazines are indexed at the library, kitchenware is marked down at yard sales, and every small appliance known to man can be found (cheap!) at the thrift store.

Think of these off-site treasure troves as attenuated household storage areas ... and dare to dump it!

The Deferrer: "I'll think about that tomorrow!"

Those of the deferral mindset are guilty of the great set-aside. Bills, notices, old newspapers, items that need cleaning or repair, and household projects are all set aside to be dealt with another day.

The Deferrer will leave dinner dishes in the sink, wet laundry in the washer, and dropped fruit underneath the backyard apple tree.

Deferrers need to be reminded that tomorrow has no more time or energy than today--and that putting off decisions drags down each new day with yesterday's unfinished business.

Since this behavior is grounded in procrastination, apply the best remedy: action. For Deferrers, simply making a start creates the momentum needed to finish the job.

Remember, it's easier to keep a rolling stone in motion, than it is to pick it up and start it rolling the first time!

The Rebel: "I don't wanna and you can't make me!"

Somehow, it's all Mom's fault. Rebels were forced to pick up after themselves as children; as adults, they're still expressing the mute and stubborn determination of a four-year-old who refuses to pick up his toys.

Rebel clutter can be anything, but often centers on household activities. No, the Rebel won't put his or her clothes in the hamper, cereal bowl in the dishwasher, or car in the garage--even when the clothing gets wrinkled, the cereal bowl hardens into yellow goop, and the car gets damaged by roadside traffic.

Rebels need to remind themselves that the war is over. They don't live with Mom anymore--and their own family deserves an adult on the job, not a sulky child.

Tell that inner Rebel, "It's okay--I'm the parent now, and I want a house that's nice to live in. By switching places with the old authority figure, the Rebel can find a way out of "I don't wanna!"

The Perfectionist: "Next week, I'll organize everything--perfectly!"

Perfectionists are wonderful people, but they live in an all-or-nothing world. They do wonderful things--when they do them!


Perfectionism forms an inner barrier to cutting clutter because the Perfectionist can't abide doing a less-than-perfect job.

Without the time to give 110% to the project, the Perfectionist Clutterer prefers to let matters--and the piles of stuff--slide.

For example, plastic food containers may be overflowing their cabinet, but the Perfectionist Clutterer won't scrabble them to rights until he or she can purchase the perfect shelf paper, lid holder organizer, and color-coded labels. As a result, the massed and crowded containers stay put, falling down onto the feet of anyone hapless enough to open the cupboard door.

Perfectionist Clutterers need to remind themselves of the 20-80 rule: 20% of every job takes care of 80% of the problem, while fixing the remaining 20% will gobble 80% of the job.

By giving themselves permission to do only 20%, Perfectionist Clutterers get off the dime and get going.

Categories: Homekeeping